The Monday Morning Memo: Counterintuitive Radio

Monday-Morning-Memo-Logo1By Roy H. Williams

“The best radio ads entertain the public and generate favorable comments.”

That kind of thinking is why most radio ads don’t work as well as they should.

Memo 051010 Counterintuitive-RadioI know it’s counterintuitive and disconcerting but the ads we hate often work better than the ads we love.

What are you trying to make happen with your radio ads? Have you been confusing compliments with results?

You’re probably dismayed by what I’m saying right now. Bear with me. I’m betting you’ll find a nugget you can use.

Here are some concepts to ponder:

(1.) Strange voices: Voices that belong on the radio are easy to ignore. Voices that don’t belong on the radio usually sell more product. Unpolished, amateur voices are hard to ignore. This is why they generate such hot complaints.

(2.) Awkward phrasing: “Smooth ads” are built from worn-out phrases that are likewise easy to ignore. Effective ads often feature broken sentences. Half sentences. Non-sequiturs. This is how we speak, but it’s rarely how we write. Our brains know how to assemble bits and pieces of verbalized thoughts so that they make sense in our minds. Awkward wording and weird phrases capture attention. But we rarely use these when we write radio ads.

(3.) No music: Music beds “sound good” because they help blur the ads into the format. This makes the ads - you guessed it - easier to ignore.

(4.) No humor: Humor is like nitroglycerine. Handle it carefully and you can move mountains with it. Handle it carelessly and you’ll blow your listener’s attention completely away from your message; they’ll remember your humor but not your advertiser. Here’s the rule: When the humor is directly linked to the product and its purpose, you’re in the mountain moving business. But when your humor is only tangentially connected to the product, resist the temptation to include it in the ad. Tangential humor will get you lots of compliments but limited results.

Please understand I’m NOT saying irritating ads always work. Sometimes a radio ad is irritating because it’s badly written, poorly produced and pointless. But these are rare. Far more common are ads that are badly written, extremely well produced and pointless. But occasionally you’ll hear an ad that doesn’t sound like an ad at all. The person on the radio sounds real, says real things and is believable.

Jim Dunn’s accent is difficult to penetrate because he spent his formative years in Boston. Remember Cliff Clavin on Cheers? Jim the construction worker has a much thicker Boston accent than Cliffie the postman and Jim’s jewelry store is in sunny Florida. Earlier this year, Jim bought some radio time and simply told the truth:

JIM: What was I thinking? Opening a second location made sense at the time, I just can’t remember why. Originally, I opened J.R. Dunn Jewelers in Lighthouse Point so that Ann Marie, Sean and I could work together as a family. Opening that second location on Las Olas meant us working apart. The store was a success but it was also a huge burden. There are things in life worth more than money. Togetherness is one of them. In late 2009, I asked Ann Marie what she wanted for Christmas. She said,

ANN MARIE: “All I want is to spend more time with our family and for you, me and Sean to work together again. So if that means closing Las Olas…so be it.”

JIM: When I asked Sean what he wanted, he gave me the same answer. Funny, it’s what I wanted deep down inside, too. It’s done.

ANNOUNCER: Announcing the first, last and only Happy Together Sale. The entire inventory of the Las Olas store has been moved to the original store location in Lighthouse Point. The Dunns are back together again.

JIM: Join us in our family celebration. We’ve got fine jewelry hanging from the rafters. Two stores full of diamonds, watches and jewelry jammed into one big happy location. Let us send some home with you.

Jim and Ann Marie Dunn allowed their Florida customers to see them real. Jim spoke of relationships more important than money and publicly admitted an embarrassing mistake.

Real people with real voices telling real stories.

The Dunn’s event was a gigantic success.

Real results.

Go figure.

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